Togo and Gabon join the Commonwealth

Gabon and Togo joined the Commonwealth on Saturday 25 June, becoming the last two countries with no historical connection to the United Kingdom to enter the English-speaking club led by Queen Elizabeth II.

The Commonwealth of 54 countries, mostly former British colonies, approved the membership application of Togo and Gabon on the last day of its summit in Rwanda.

“We have accepted Gabon and Togo as new members, and we welcome them all to the Commonwealth family,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said at the closing press conference.

Gabon and Togo, the French-speaking countries in West Africa, are the first two new members to join the Commonwealth since Rwanda in 2009.

Togo’s Foreign Minister Robert Dossey said membership in the Commonwealth and its 2.5 billion consumers provided new economic and educational opportunities and sparked a “craze” for the English language among its citizens.

“Togo’s membership is motivated by a desire to expand its diplomatic, political and economic network (…) and to get closer to the English-speaking world,” he told AFP. He added that it allows the small developing country of 8.5 million people to redefine bilateral relations with the UK outside the EU after Brexit.

Analysts said the two French-speaking countries have also applied for Commonwealth membership in recent years to move away from France.

For Togolese political scientist Mohamed Madi Chabkati, this decision would be welcome because French influence in Togo is often criticized.

Membership is not discussed with the people of Togo. It is a unilateral decision of the government”, but it is nevertheless unpopular with Togo, who “gradually see in the foreign policy of France the causes of stagnation in the country”, according to his estimates.

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According to the analyst, “Togo is joining the Commonwealth, which is better for many than sharing the French language and culture, which does not promote development in the end.”

‘Many Opportunities’

Rwanda’s accession to the Commonwealth came at a time of great tension between Kigali and Paris. Kigali has forged close ties with London in the years since its entry, not least as this year emerged with the conclusion of a controversial immigrant deal.

For his part, Gabonese President Ali Bongo announced that his country was writing “history” by joining the Commonwealth of Nations.

“After 62 years of independence, our country is about to turn a new page in its history,” Ali Bongo said in a statement on Twitter. There are many opportunities available to us economically, diplomatically and culturally. »

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About the Author: Irene Alves

"Bacon ninja. Guru do álcool. Explorador orgulhoso. Ávido entusiasta da cultura pop."

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